Features

Fundamentalist or radical?

International

Issue: "End of the innocence," Jan. 30, 1999

With reports that Osama bin Laden, the Islamic terrorist believed to have masterminded the twin bombings at American embassies in Africa last year, is forging links with Saddam Hussein, WORLD asked David Forte-law professor at Cleveland State University, visiting scholar at the Liberty Fund, and an expert on Islam-to distill the distinctions behind the news from the Persian Gulf:

"If this linkage is true, it is not because Saddam Hussein is a radical Muslim, it is because it fits his objective. Saddam is not a radical Islamist, he is a tyrant that could be present in any civilization. His relationship to Islam is merely fortuitous; it is not essential to his aim, except in the broadest sense. It is just a matter of convenience.

"You have to understand the difference between radical Muslims and fundamentalist Muslims.

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"The fundamentalists want to bring back Islam to the place where they think it was 1,200 years ago. They think Islam has become corrupted, and they work by religious persuasion and sometimes the ballot box. They want to bring back Sharia, or Islamic law, even though no Islamic regime ever did enforce it in its literalness. And if they did, it would present problems. Would they enforce what Sharia says about human rights, free speech, and the place of women?

"Radicals have a different view of Islam. They think of it in terms of political programs. Many were Marxist trained. They believe all of Islam is in a state of unbelief, so they are frequently against Muslims because they believe Muslims are under the sway of the West. They find the entire state of Islam under a state

of war. Not following Sharia, Osama bin Laden follows the Marxist view, that he can force the rest of Islam through political means to become the way he wants-so he will accept the death of Africans, even Muslims, in the African embassy explosions.

"I draw a line that is not a bright line. Many fundamentalists engage in radical activities. Islamists used to think politics followed religion; now their religion is used by radicals to follow politics."

Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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